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Lieutenant Kizhe restored

Published 1934

Poruchik Kizhe - Пору́чик Киже́ ( Lieutenant Kijé) (1934)
Aka: The Czar Wants to Sleep
With close captioned subtitles (see NOTE)

This is a delightful comedy about a fictional Lt Kizhe who came about because of a scribe's copying mistake. The officials were afraid to embarrass the Czar, so they created a fictional Kizhe who served as a convenient scapegoat. After being whipped, exiled, returned, married, and promoted Kizhe finally had to die when the Czar wanted to meet him.

This is the first movie with a Prokofiev film score, so it is an important historical document and should be considered a classic. But it is also a very enjoyable comedy. The music from the film was subsequently recycled by Prokofiev into the popular Lieutenant Kijé suite. The story originated with a family story recounted in Vladimir Dahl's "Rasskazy o vremenakh Pavla I" ("Stories of the time of Paul I") in the journal Russkaya starina in 1870. Later it was expanded by Yury Tynyanov into a novella with added fictional events.

The story parodied Paul I, the son of Catherine the Great. But there is a suspicion that the movie may have also been intended as a criticism of the current Soviet government, disguised as a historical story. Paul was actually revered by many of his people and was idealistic and generous but also mercurial and sometimes vindictive. The depiction in the movie of his paranoia is probably somewhat accurate. His fear may not have been misplaced because shortly after he occupied his new secure palace he was assassinated. It is unknown whether a mythical Kizhe was actually invented to prevent Czarist embarrassment. So the movie is an amusing caricature of Paul which is not quite accurate.

Watching this film, one gets a new view of the music in the Lieutenant Kijé suite. The biggest surprise was the Troika. In the usual concert notes it is depicted as a pleasant ride of Kijé and his bride in a three horse sleigh. In the movie it is a drunken manic ride of Count von Pahlen who is "escorting" Kijé back from Siberia, before the wedding. The ride happens on a summer night in a three horse cart and the Counts constant companion is a humongous jug of vodka. It is too bad that the concert Troika is not usually performed with the rollicking song used in the movie. Most of the movie music is in the suite with the exception of the dissonant whipping music.

This copy of this public domain movie was restored from sources on the web. All of the sources on the web apparently came from the same original digitized source, but were probably recorded from different Russian TV broadcasts with different quality. One source has slightly clearer picture, but missing pieces, more cropping, and badly compressed audio. Another source was more complete and had uncompressed audio, but the video was poorly processed and overbrightened which washed out detail in some frames. Unfortunately a high quality DVD version is not available as this movie merits a Criterion edition. All sources were apparently recorded using old technology and the film jittered a lot with changes in focus, brightness, and framing. In addition the primitive automatic corrections produced unstable brightness at scene changes, smeared detail, and overlightened night scenes. This copy of the video is partially stabilized in both position and luminance and sharpened to produce a more watchable version. Some obvious spots, lines, and flares were removed by duplicating a nearby frame, and some manual adjustments were made to intensity and positioning. Video noise was removed by Virtualdub Spotremover, but because of the original poor stability very good noise removal was not possible. Good motion stabilization requires a view of the film frame, and all source have significant cropping. At least 16% of the picture is missing on the top, 8% on the bottow and probably the same on the sides, so a large amount of the picture has been cropped. There are a few artifacts left in the final video due to the stabilization. Only consumer available software was used, and a better restoration may have to await a high quality digital dub with professional software.

A large effort went into fixing the audio portion. A number of ticks and pops had to be removed by hand, and the overall noise was reduced. Most of the sound effects were left intact, and the music is much clearer. Some web versions of this film have very high noise which pumps up and down due to the severe compression that was standard when televising old movies. The version chosen for restoration did not exhibit audio compression, but a short segment had to be spliced into the sound track from the compressed version. Unfortunately there is little that can be done to reduce the distortion in the primitive 1930s Soviet era sound track.

BE WARNED that there is no sound during the credits, and the sound begins with a very faint trumpet call. One of the credits is obviously missing, but the complete known credits are listed at the end of the film. There are optional English subtitles on this video which have been enhanced for the hard of hearning.

The result is more watchable, and much more listenable. Hopefully the overall effect is now much closer to what the director intended. The sound is fairly close to the original, but the compressed brightness range could only be restored approximately in a few scenes. Until the time when a good copy is made available, this may have to suffice.

NOTE: As of May 24, 2012 he "new player" only shows subtitles if you click on the second version. If you view the movie online, you may have to click on the CC box to get the optional English subtitles. If you download this video both of the MP4s have optional English subtitles viewable in the VLC and some other players. The OGV version does not have subtitles. You may have to download the full version to view it with subtitles as various Archive changes sometimes render subtitles inoperable.

Information for contributors to the archive: If you wish to have closed caption subtitles you must upload the .SRT file after the video with the same file name, but the .SRT extension. Since the 512 MP4 is used for viewing, you may have to upload the file for that version. Perhaps the subtitle info should be included in the upload instruction.

Dec 6, 2010 - Updated credits and a few small fixes to video.

J. Clement 2010

Run time 83 minutes 14 seconds
Audio/Visual sound, B&W


Reviewer: Vitali Chaconne - - November 23, 2010
Subject: thanks (and a request)
Thank you for your extraordinary efforts to improve the watchability of the film.

Could you please add to the final credits that you attached to the film a credit for the subtitles, however -- which I had great fun producing a few years ago? A credit to the email address kizhesubtitles [at sign] mit [period] edu would be sufficient (as listed on the Google video version's site). Thank you once again!
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